An enthusiastic group of Health Center supporters, volunteers, and staff members gathered recently at the historic Warner Theatre in Torrington to celebrate the newest addition to the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The reception, hosted by the Neags, was designed to promote the ground-breaking accomplishments of the Cancer Center and to highlight the Cancer Center’s new Helical TomoTherapy Hi-Art System – the latest, most technologically advanced development in radiation oncology.
One of only approximately 150 such systems in use worldwide, UConn’s TomoTherapy system is the first of its kind in Connecticut.
It is scheduled to be fully operational this fall.
This state-of-the-art equipment was acquired by the Health Center through a $2.5 million gift from the Neags, who have also played a significant role in the ongoing restoration of the Warner, a 1930s-era movie palace that is now home to a variety of arts and entertainment offerings.
The technology employed by the TomoTherapy system differs from other systems in its ability to deliver radiation with pinpoint accuracy.
That precision allows for far more effective treatment of tumors, and also reduces the amount of healthy tissue exposed to radiation.
It will be especially useful in treating patients with cancers of the head and neck, prostate, brain, and other tumors adjacent to organs that could be damaged by radiation.
Dr. Robert Dowsett, chief of radiation oncology at the Health Center, likened the TomoTherapy system to Star Wars in its level of technological sophistication.
In preparation for the treatment, detailed 3-D imagery is taken of the patient, with doctors and technicians using special software to identify the specific areas to be targeted with radiation and sparing surrounding normal tissue.
| From left, Dr. Peter Deckers, executive vice president for health affairs, Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Carole and Raymond Neag, during a reception in Torrington.
|Photo by John Atashian
Unlike previous technologies that use wide bands of radiation, TomoTherapy uses narrow rotating “pencil” beams of radiation to treat tumors from all directions with specifically determined levels of radiation intensity.
Those attending the event – including physicians from the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, members of the Cancer Center Advisory Board, and a host of UConn donors – heard remarks by University President Philip E. Austin, Dr. Peter J. Deckers, executive vice president of the Health Center and dean of the School of Medicine, and Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, director of the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Austin reflected on the huge impact the Neags’ philanthropy has had on the University, helping to shape its course for the 21st century.
Deckers pointed out that, in addition to the TomoTherapy system, the Neags’ generosity has transformed many areas of the University, including the School of Education, the Cancer Center, and the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center.
During her comments, Runowicz called attention to some of latest advances at the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.
She said TomoTherapy is a “shining example” of the vision and commitment necessary to be at the forefront of cancer care.
She emphasized the importance of private philanthropy to the work currently under way at the Health Center, and thanked the Neags, along with other major benefactors such as Bess and Michael Economos of Lea’s Foundation and others whose support is helping ensure that the citizens of Connecticut have access to world-class cancer care at UConn.